Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, May 21, 2018 05:33 PM
Circle is considered one of the most fundamental figures in training horses. We begin training horses on a circle - round pen, lunge line. We continue training on a circle under saddle. Lots of time dressage riders are seen spending an entire ride on 20 m circle. Plus, circles can be of different sizes from 20 m to 6 m, variations include spiral, figure 8, any corner is a portion of a circle, serpentines are half circles connected by a short straight line, etc.
Why is a circle so important? It teaches a horse and a rider to turn in a smooth, balanced way which is not natural neither to a horse, nor to a rider. However, finished product - a well-ridden circle - feels wonderful to a rider and keeps a horse supple and balanced which helps to avoid injury and overuse. A circle creates a solid base for more advanced training.
How a horse feels on a correctly ridden circle?
  • A horse starts and finishes a circle without change of the rhythm or tempo, or energy in it's gait. If a circle is small the horse can be collected more using a circle. However, 20-15 m circles should not slow down the horse, or make him speed up
  • A horse continues to travel with his shoulders and hips level, the ribcage is lifted on inside creating a bend, slight flexion to the inside. The horse's axel is on the line of a circle
  • A horse tracks up from behind evenly, hind legs are following into hoofprints of the front legs, exceptions are collected trot, passage
  • A horse feels light and even on both reins, responds to half-halts instantly without giving a feel of blockage or stiffness. A rider has a feeling that he/she can change out of a circle at any moment
In order to improve your circles and turns you can use the following ideas:
  • To avoid using too much inside rein think of octagon instead of a circle. Turning comes first, bend comes later
  • Riders naturally lean into circles. That will disconnect outside seatbone and overload horse's inside shoulder inviting him to fall in
  • The feel of more weighted inside seatbone comes from advancing it slightly forward following the line of a circle.
  • Avoid collapsing at the waist area on the inside and turning your shoulders ahead of your horse. Feel stuffed between your ribcage and pelvis.
  • Outside seatbone must travel on the line of a circle. Do not leave outside seatbone behind blocking your horse's outside hind leg and inviting haunches to fall in (my bulb moment!)
  • Use outside leg if: steering feels sticky; you want to press outside rein into his neck to improve steering; outside rein feel heavy
  • Keep your horse's ears on the line of a circle (my other bulb moment), look between his ears
  • Inside rein asks for flexion and indicates a turn, it does not turn
  • Outside rein creates the circle boundary, the horse must follow it not lean on it
  • A rider requests a circle, the horse executes it, the rider monitors and corrects the horse. Do not push your horse around a circle like he is a wheelbarrow!
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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